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Can Heat Pumps Use Existing Ductwork?


Posted by Spencer | November 20, 2023 | Reading Time:

If you’ve considered installing a new heat pump, you might want to know which parts from your old HVAC system you can reasonably salvage to save money and time. Like many homeowners, your focus might lie with your current duct network.

Can heat pumps use existing ductwork? As experts in heat pump installation in Phoenix, Arizona, our team at Rainforest Plumbing & Air knows the answer goes beyond a simple yes or no. We’ll outline how salvaging your old duct system may or may not be an appropriate solution below. 

How Do Heat Pumps Work?

Heat pumps pull heat from various sources, depending on their design. For example, air-source pumps draw heat from outdoor air and transfer it indoors in response to the homeowner’s heat setting. Alternatively, they remove heat from indoor air and deposit it outdoors when cooling. 

Other heat pump varieties require no duct network to condition your indoor air. Therefore, ductless heat pumps do not need upgraded ducts to operate properly. What about the models that require ducts? Should you replace your duct system with one?

Why Many Homeowners Replace Their Ductwork

When an HVAC company replaces or upgrades a customer’s duct network, it typically finds significant damage throughout the system. Sometimes, the outdated ductwork is on the verge of significant issues, even if it doesn’t currently have problems. You’ll find some common reasons you might need duct replacement before replacing your traditional air conditioning system.


A poorly installed or designed duct system won’t integrate well with a new heat pump. Bad duct design causes problems like:

  • Uneven heating and cooling
  • Restricted airflow
  • Loud noises like whistling or crackling

These problems decrease the system’s efficiency and erode the comfort you should enjoy.


Age and some home improvement projects can damage your ductwork. A duct inspection might turn up the following issues:

  • Corroded or rusted materials
  • Fractures, cracks, and punctures
  • Loose or missing connectors

Replace heavily damaged ducts to avoid expensive repairs within the next few years.

Convenient Lifespan

A home’s ductwork generally lasts 15 to 20 years before it needs replacing. Heat pumps have a similar service life. Therefore, you should consider replacing ductwork over a decade old. 

The new ductwork will share the same life expectancy as the new heat pump. You can manage these services simultaneously, making a time-consuming service more convenient.

Air Quality

Finally, excessively dirty ducts may also need replacement. Although you can purchase cleaning services, your heat pump might fare better with a new network. These additions will significantly improve indoor air quality, making breathing more comfortable for your whole family. 

Can Heat Pumps Use Existing Ductwork?

When can heat pumps use existing ductwork? Your answers to the questions below will help you determine whether you can keep your original duct network or seek alternative services.

Did You Perform or Schedule Regular Maintenance?

All HVAC components need occasional maintenance, including the ductwork. Your ducts need cleaning services at least every five years. The frequency may increase if you own pets, smoke indoors, or live in a highly polluted area. 

Does Your Ductwork Have a History of Repairs?

If ductwork repairs have become the norm in your household, these expenses won’t decrease with a new heat pump. Constant repairs signify age and permanent damage. They won’t stop without complete network replacement. 

How Old Is Your Ductwork?

Although ducts can last 15 to 20 years, your installation technicians recommend replacing the whole network if you installed it ten years ago. Duct replacement ensures your new ducts will work consistently alongside the heat pump. 

Inspection Results

What does your installation professional ultimately recommend? They may suggest you keep your network. Alternatively, they may recommend options that don’t require a network.

Ductwork Alternatives

Many homeowners in Arizona find that switching from traditional outdoor and indoor units to heat pumps with efficient air handlers is easy. After all, heat pumps offer more consistent temperatures, better indoor air quality, and higher efficiency and savings. However, the added cost of ductwork repair or replacement can put them off from finalizing the service. 

If you face a similar problem, consider a ductless system. Also called a mini-split, this ductless model will help you avoid the added expenses and stress of duct replacement.

Let Rainforest Plumbing & Air Demystify Your Ductwork Concerns

Can heat pumps use existing ductwork? They often can and do! However, ensure your network can adequately handle the task first.

How long do heat pumps last with proper care and maintenance? The answer might surprise you! Contact our heat pump experts at Rainforest Plumbing & Air for answers to all your questions.

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